Previewing Senate Elections: California, Section 1

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing competitive Senate elections in blue states. It will focus on California. Because California is such a big and complicated state, it will have two sections – of which this is the first. The second part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

California, Section 1

In the greatest state of the union, a fierce senatorial battle is brewing. Former HP executive Carly Fiorina is mounting a tough challenge to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. In an anti-Democratic national environment, polls show the race close and competitive. This post will examine the obstacles Ms. Fiorina will face as she seeks to overcome California’s formidable Democratic geography.

Link to Map of California, 2008 Presidential Election

As America’s most populous state, California contains a number of distinct regions. This post, and the one following, will examine each.

Upper California and the Sierra Nevada

When people think of California, the northern forests and year-round snow of the Sierra Nevada generally do not come into mind. These regions, geographically expansive yet thinly populated, tend to vote loyally Republican (although until the 1970s Democrats had a base of support in several northeastern counties).

Not all of this region is Republican-voting, unpopulated wilderness. Exurban Placer County, for instance, contained 173,812 voters in 2008. Other parts – especially the liberal coast – tend to vote Democratic, eating in to Republican strength.

Ms. Fiorina will probably need something like 70% of the vote in places like Placer County to win. Strong margins from this Republican stronghold constitute the first, easiest step to a Republican victory.

The Bay Area

In many ways, the Bay Area is what makes California a blue state. Without the Bay Area, for instance, President George W. Bush would – almost – have won California in 2004, losing by a mere 0.7%.

Link to Picture of Bay Area, 2004 Presidential Election

 Unfortunately for Republicans, the Bay Area – one of the richest, most diverse, and most liberal places in the country – does indeed exist, and it votes strongly Democratic. A popular attack against Senator Boxer is to call her a San Francisco liberal; this generally works less well in San Francisco.

In addition, voting habits in the Bay Area tend to be “sticky.” If the rest of California moves ten points more Republican, the Bay Area will tend to move only five points right. San Francisco and Alameda counties are sometimes the last two counties standing during Republican landslides.

There is a glimmer of hope for Republicans, however. The counties surrounding San Francisco and Berkeley tend to be one degree less intense in their liberalism. Ms. Fiorina will not win them, but a well-run campaign can reduce Democratic margins somewhat.

Central Valley

Home to some of the richest farmland in America, the counties composing Central Valley once leaned Democratic but now vote Republican in all but Democratic landslides. Conservative and heavily populated – although not by California standards – Central Valley provides somewhat of a reservoir to offset the enormous Democratic margins radiating from the Bay Area.

There is, however, one important exception: Sacramento, a populous county whose Democratic leanings deny Republicans a vast store of potential votes.

In the long run, Central Valley is a ticking time bomb. Democratic-voting Latinos compose 30-50% of the population in many of these counties, and their numbers will only increase. For now Ms. Fiorina is safe – Latinos do not vote their numbers, especially in mid-terms – but future Republicans cannot take Central Valley for granted.

The Challenge of Southern California

It is in the urban sprawl of SoCal, however, where Republicans face their greatest challenge. Ms. Fiorina has two tasks here. The first is to win the counties outside Los Angeles, and win them big. The second is to keep Los Angeles itself within single digits.

The next post will expand upon SoCal and offer a conclusion on Republican prospects of winning California.

 

 

Stop the Senate from Gutting the Clean Air Act!

Just when you thought the U.S. Senate couldn't do any less for clean energy and the environment than it's (not) done so far, we now face the real possibility of what would amount to a "stop-work order" on the 40-year-old, wildly successful (e.g., studies finding benefits outweighing costs at a 40:1 ratio), Clean Air Act.

That's right: believe it or not, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is moving ahead with a sequel to Sen. Lisa Murkowski's nefarious attempt, earlier this summer, to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s power to protect the public health from dangerous pollutants, including harmful greenhouse gases.  Just as bad, Rockefeller's proposal would keep America addicted to oil and other old, polluting energy technologies, while delaying or derailing our switch to a clean, prosperous energy economy.  

Essentially, what Rockefeller is proposing would tell the EPA – at least for two years, although we know that justice delayed is often justice denied! - that it has to be asleep at the switch, that it must not hold polluters accountable, that it must look the other way whole Big Oil and Big Coal trash the environment. Is that the lesson the Senate learned from the Gulf of Mexico disaster?  Really?

Fortunately, not everyone is so clueless as the U.S. Senate appears to be right now.  For instance, in yesterday's Politico, two energy investors – one Democrat, one Republican – explained what's at stake in clear, compelling language.

We are not experts in vote counting or horse trading. But we do know how investors and markets will respond if Congress ultimately fails to put a market-based price on carbon. The response from capital will be brutal: Money will flow to places like China, Europe and India — and U.S. jobs will go with it.

The path to creating more U.S. jobs is simple: Pass legislation that eliminates uncertainty and levels the playing field, and investors will fund projects that create good jobs here at home. Rules bring certainty, certainty spurs investment, and investment creates jobs.

[...]

Take it from investors: Removing the uncertainty, and taking a more thoughtful approach to energy policy by putting a market price on carbon, can bring home new investments and jobs — and ensure that America leads the clean energy economy.

Instead, it now looks like the Senate not only won't be moving us forwards, but instead will be trying to move us significantly – and disastrously - backwards. What's truly stunning about this possibility is that, right now, the science of climate change is clearer and more disturbing than ever.  Heat waves are getting worse, the ice caps are shrinking faster than ever, and scientists are telling us that the world is setting new temperature records almost every month, every year, and every decade.   In addition, the results of our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels were demonstrated starkly and tragically, both in a West Virginia coal mine as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, on TV screens all across America in recent months.  As if all this isn't bad enough, we also could run out of water.

The American people know this situation can't go on. In fact, recent polls show large majorities supporting an energy bill that would "[l]imit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy...by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas." In other words, this is a case where good policy – limiting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing our national security, safeguarding public health, jumpstarting a clean energy revolution – and good politics – strong poll results for doing just that - appear to align.  Yet, the U.S. Senate appears ready to ignore both good policy and good politics, and actually move to make matters worse by gutting the EPA and letting polluters like BP off the hook.

Don’t let them do it.  Call your Senators right now and tell them "hell no" to the "Let Polluters Pollute with Impunity Act."  Also, while you’re at it, call the White House and tell President Obama that, if such a measure reaches his desk, he will veto it – no ifs, ands, or buts.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Previewing Senate Elections: New York

This is the second part of a series of posts analyzing competitive Senate elections in blue states. The third part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

New York

Out of the three heavily Democratic states being analyzed, Republicans probably have the least chance of winning New York. A serious Republican challenger to Senator Kristen Gillibrand has yet to emerge. Moreover, Ms. Gillibrand has proven an adept politician willing to campaign hard.

Nevertheless, in a bad national environment with low name recognition, victory for Democrats is not assured. Under the right circumstances (perhaps a Gillibrand scandal), Republicans may be able to pull off a shocker.

Map of New York, 2008 Presidential Election

Like Illinois, New York can be divided into three sections: upstate, the suburbs downstate, and New York City. A New York Republican must win upstate and the suburbs by substantial margins – and perform extremely well in New York City.

Upstate New York

Like Illinois, the first step on the Republican road to victory lies with here. A Republican candidate must win strong margins upstate; a strong performance here is embedded with a double-digit loss.

Unfortunately for Republicans, upstate New York and downstate Illinois are not the same. Unlike Illinois, upstate New York is home to four major cities: Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Syracuse. In a normal election – i.e. a double-digit Democratic victory – these cities will vote Democratic, some by substantial margins.

There are several more wrinkles for a Republican candidate. Like much of the rural northeast, upstate New York has been trending Democratic. Despite the conservative national mood, Democrats last year won two special elections upstate. Moreover, Senator Kristen Gillibrand has roots there; she represented an upstate congressional district before becoming Senator.

Nevertheless, the majority of this region still votes loyally Republican; a competitive candidate can rely upon it to help counter New York City. In a close election a Republican ought to win almost every county in upstate New York.

The Suburbs Downstate

This region can be defined as the suburbs surrounding New York City: Long Island and the communities around Yonkers. A Republican’s task here is similar to that upstate: win, and win big.

Historically this was not too difficult; New York City’s suburbs regularly voted Republican, although never by enough to overcome Democratic margins in the city itself. Like many other suburbs, this changed with President Bill Clinton: since his time they have generally voted Democratic.

Today things are changing once more. Since the events of 9/11, downstate’s suburbs (especially Long Island) have been trending Republican. This was one of the few regions Senator John McCain did well in (as opposed to President Barack Obama doing poorly in); his national security credentials appealed to a number of downstate suburban voters.

A strong Republican must capitalize on this trend, changing New York’s suburbs back into Republican territory. This strength, added to margins from upstate, makes for a 5% Republican loss. Republican candidates have achieved this combination many times in the state’s electoral history. Take 1968, when President Richard Nixon lost New York by 5.46%:

Map of New York, 1968 Presidential Election

The problem is the last 5%, to  which a Republican must look to New York City for.

New York City

To make up the last 5%, a Republican candidate must do well in New York City, that great metropolis of the United States. The Big Apple composes an astounding 43% of the state’s population, the largest proportion in the country. It also votes extremely Democratic; in 2008 four out of five voters turned the lever for President Barack Obama.

The Republican facing Ms. Gillibrand will have to substantially improve upon this number. This is not as hard as it first sounds. New York City, after all, has had a non-Democratic mayor for more than a decade. Low minority turn-out looks likely to bedevil Democrats during this off-year election. Moreover, Republicans retain a base in Staten Island and southern Brooklyn. Even in 2008 these places voted Republican:

Map of New York City, 2008 By Precinct

Finally, some regional complexities come into play. Although almost all of New York City voted for Mr. Obama, some parts are more less loyally Democratic than others (as was the case in Massachusetts). White liberals and impoverished minorities in Manhattan and the Bronx almost never vote Republican; suburbanites in Brooklyn and Queens, on the other hand, are more perceptible to Republican appeals. Winning Republicans generally tie or win the Queens borough and hold Democrats below 60% in the Kings borough.

Conclusions

If New York is close next November, it will probably look something like this:

Map of Hypothetical Election in New York

This map can indicate anything from a 5% Democratic victory to a 5% Republican victory, depending on turn-out. Perhaps the best barometer will be the Queens borough in New York City. Look to it next November – it might literally determine the fate of the Democratic Senate majority.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

My Kids Are Losers: Commentary on the Climate Debate

The climate bill blame game has begun. When I first started writing this post about the so-called death of the climate bill, I literally pointed the finger at just about everyone, including myself. The anger poured out, and I was frank in my assessment as well as unforgiving in the motives behind this latest setback.

After I was done with my self-loathing tantrum, the kids ran in the door from camp and I was swept up in the lovely reality of my family's banter. It is summer, so the pace in our home is a bit more relaxed in the evening. We aren't quite as quick to rush through dinner, toss the kids in a bath, and then march them off to bed. Ice cream and extra cuddles are relished, and I am reminded each year at this time why I do this job.

Later, after progeny were tucked in, I went back to my draft blog post to spruce it up. I reread my rage, disappointment, and irrational ramblings and was embarrassed. And I asked myself "What good is all this blame going to do?"

At the end of the day, it is my kids - and your kids - who lose when we implode. If you think kids have a lot to say about their parents now on Dr. Phil, can you imagine what our children will say in 50 years should we fail to get our act together?

The country should be ready for this. The facts are on our side. As we witness the worst industry-caused environmental catastrophe in our history, the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years, and sweat through the hottest first 6 months of any year on record, it is clear that there's never been a more urgent time to move forward with a smart clean energy and climate plan.

Unfortunately, the politicians just aren't there. At every juncture during this debate, a minority, led by the Republican leadership and supported by a few impressionable (I might say pathetic) Democrats, has obstructed the opportunity to solve America's energy problems, preferring to leave the worst polluters and the big petro-dictators in control of our energy policy, while tax-payers are forced to pay for their messes.

Oopsy... there goes that blame again. Let's focus on what we can do next.

Hope is not lost. Of course, the closer we get to the midterm elections, the more challenging passing a bill becomes. Still, it's not impossible. In fact, the Senate has passed almost every single bedrock environmental law in the fall of an election year or in the "lame duck" session following an election. Here are just a few examples:

o Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) - 1996 Amendments: 8/6/96

o Food Quality Protection Act: 8/3/96

o Energy Policy Act of 1992: 10/24/92

o Clean Air Act of 1990: 11/15/90

o SDWA - 1986 Amendments: 6/19/86

o CERCLA (Superfund): House 9/23/80, Senate 11/24/80, POTUS 12/11/80

o Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA): 10/21/76

o Toxic Substances & Control Act (TSCA): 10/11/76

o SDWA: 12/16/74

o Clean Water Act: 10/18/72

o Establishment of the EPA: first proposed 7/9/70, established 12/2/70

o National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): 1/1/70

o The Wilderness Act: 9/3/64

As this list demonstrates, the Senate and the environmental movement are no strangers to passing major legislation right before - or just after - an election.

I don't want to overpromise success. This is an uphill battle. But if you and I show up to every town hall, rally, spaghetti dinner, and other rituals of election year and fight for our kids... fight for our country... fight for our America... we can turn the tide. Without that kind of passion, we will all lose. That's an outcome we must try hard to avoid, on behalf of people, communities, large and small businesses - oh, and our kids, sleeping peacefully or playing happily around the country.

In the meantime, we must also protect what we already have, like a plethora of state laws and the federal Clean Air Act. I recommend reading David Doniger's blog on Switchboard today that really outlines how we can make progress with the tools we have right now.

In coming weeks and months, we must continue to push forward for a strong, clean energy and climate bill, just like we have done countless times in the past. I am done with blame. History is on our side. Are you?

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

 

My Kids Are Losers: Commentary on the Climate Debate

The climate bill blame game has begun. When I first started writing this post about the so-called death of the climate bill, I literally pointed the finger at just about everyone, including myself. The anger poured out, and I was frank in my assessment as well as unforgiving in the motives behind this latest setback.

After I was done with my self-loathing tantrum, the kids ran in the door from camp and I was swept up in the lovely reality of my family's banter. It is summer, so the pace in our home is a bit more relaxed in the evening. We aren't quite as quick to rush through dinner, toss the kids in a bath, and then march them off to bed. Ice cream and extra cuddles are relished, and I am reminded each year at this time why I do this job.

Later, after progeny were tucked in, I went back to my draft blog post to spruce it up. I reread my rage, disappointment, and irrational ramblings and was embarrassed. And I asked myself "What good is all this blame going to do?"

At the end of the day, it is my kids - and your kids - who lose when we implode. If you think kids have a lot to say about their parents now on Dr. Phil, can you imagine what our children will say in 50 years should we fail to get our act together?

The country should be ready for this. The facts are on our side. As we witness the worst industry-caused environmental catastrophe in our history, the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years, and sweat through the hottest first 6 months of any year on record, it is clear that there's never been a more urgent time to move forward with a smart clean energy and climate plan.

Unfortunately, the politicians just aren't there. At every juncture during this debate, a minority, led by the Republican leadership and supported by a few impressionable (I might say pathetic) Democrats, has obstructed the opportunity to solve America's energy problems, preferring to leave the worst polluters and the big petro-dictators in control of our energy policy, while tax-payers are forced to pay for their messes.

Oopsy... there goes that blame again. Let's focus on what we can do next.

Hope is not lost. Of course, the closer we get to the midterm elections, the more challenging passing a bill becomes. Still, it's not impossible. In fact, the Senate has passed almost every single bedrock environmental law in the fall of an election year or in the "lame duck" session following an election. Here are just a few examples:

o Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) - 1996 Amendments: 8/6/96

o Food Quality Protection Act: 8/3/96

o Energy Policy Act of 1992: 10/24/92

o Clean Air Act of 1990: 11/15/90

o SDWA - 1986 Amendments: 6/19/86

o CERCLA (Superfund): House 9/23/80, Senate 11/24/80, POTUS 12/11/80

o Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA): 10/21/76

o Toxic Substances & Control Act (TSCA): 10/11/76

o SDWA: 12/16/74

o Clean Water Act: 10/18/72

o Establishment of the EPA: first proposed 7/9/70, established 12/2/70

o National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): 1/1/70

o The Wilderness Act: 9/3/64

As this list demonstrates, the Senate and the environmental movement are no strangers to passing major legislation right before - or just after - an election.

I don't want to overpromise success. This is an uphill battle. But if you and I show up to every town hall, rally, spaghetti dinner, and other rituals of election year and fight for our kids... fight for our country... fight for our America... we can turn the tide. Without that kind of passion, we will all lose. That's an outcome we must try hard to avoid, on behalf of people, communities, large and small businesses - oh, and our kids, sleeping peacefully or playing happily around the country.

In the meantime, we must also protect what we already have, like a plethora of state laws and the federal Clean Air Act. I recommend reading David Doniger's blog on Switchboard today that really outlines how we can make progress with the tools we have right now.

In coming weeks and months, we must continue to push forward for a strong, clean energy and climate bill, just like we have done countless times in the past. I am done with blame. History is on our side. Are you?

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

 

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